What makes this vintage piano trio album in mono so special? Allow me to quote a review from a few years back for a pair of recordings that Red Garland made with Miles Davis back in the mid-’50s: Workin’ And Steamin’.
To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB.
The size, the weight, the solidity, the clarity, the energy, the rhythmic drive – it’s all here and more. We’ve never heard the record sound better, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing the album since the ’80s.
These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.
Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to transfer that vintage sound correctly onto vinyl disc was simply to thread up the tape on a high quality machine and hit play.
The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record these days — certainly not as good sounding as this one — tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years, if not decades.
Some copies are poorly mastered, so poorly that Ray Brown’s bass all but disappears from the trio! Other copies made Thigpen’s snare sound hard and too forward in the mix. This is obviously just a mastering EQ problem, since the good copies, such as this one, get all those elements to balance beautifully.
One of the Strobe label copies we played had such a boosted top end it was positively distorted. (The RIAA curve does not allow that kind of top end boost without causing serious problems.)
If you have big, full-range speakers one of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano is WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.
In other words like a real piano, not a recorded one. This is what good live recordings tend to do well. There isn’t time to mess with the sound. Often the mix is live, so messing around after the fact is just not an option. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl and five gram needles that scrape off the high frequencies. But a few — a very few — copies survive all such hazards. They manage to capture these wonderful musical performances on vinyl, showing us the sound we never expected from Verve. This is one.
The trio is made up of Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, here recorded live at the height of their respective powers. Peterson really puts on a great show. He’s made an awful lot of records during his career and most of them aren’t very good. This is one of the exceptions. “If You Could See Me Now” is another one.
The piano sounds uncannily lifelike right from the start, a beautiful instrument in a natural space, tonally correct from top to bottom. I can’t think of many records off the top of my head that get a better piano sound than this one.
Both sides are rich and Tubey Magical in the right way, because they’re still clear and reproduce the space of the room.
Warmth turned out to be key to the sound of the best copies. When the piano sounds warm and smooth everything else in the recording seems to fall into place. That was the problem with the OJC pressing we played — we found it to be a bit on the thin and brittle side, not remotely the right sound for a vintage Contemporary recording.
With tight, deep bass and an extended top, both sides are analog at its best.
Like we said, ROY DUNANN and HOWARD HOLZER in 1957 are hard to beat.
Triple Plus on side one, Double Plus on side two, this is the best copy of Silver’s 1957 classic we’ve ever heard
The last copy to hit the site went up in 2006 – clean Horace Silver records in stereo with the right stampers and good sound are hard to find!
Rich and solid, this is the kind of sound that makes us sit up and take notice – Thanks RVG!
“All of Silver’s Blue Note quintet recordings are consistently superb and swinging…”
I chanced upon a clean copy of this album in a store last year. When I got home with it I found I loved the music and loved the sound. I then went about buying them up as fast as I could, returning something on the order of half the copies I was sent: some for scratches, some for the wrong labels, some for being mono — you never know what you’re going to get when you order records online! (Except from us of course. Unless something goes terribly wrong you will always get a good sounding record from us.) (more…)